in Space, Uncategorized

Parks and Squares

From A Letter to Sadia Shirazi, 30 October 2011

So, let’s remember how this all started. We were talking about Zuccotti Park. What kind of property is it? This whole notion of “privately owned public space” was a mystery and we wanted to shed some light on it, for ourselves. Possibly in enlightening ourselves, we could enlighten others. Further, we had our own concerns, that you and I, I believe, resolved to put into conversation.

You had something that I’m not sure how to describe (and in trying to summarize here, I realize that I’d love to hear you state it clearly, and to distinguish what is reflection, what is thesis, and what is desire.) A position to advocate? Or a critique to put forth? About the implications of Occupy Wall Streets’ roots in the Arab Spring for our concepts of public space; about the Arab Spring in general and Tahrir in particular representing a challenge to Eurocentrism of the idea of public space. I have been living in horror for ten years as the nascent (extra-legal) police state of Giuliani’s New York became legal through policy and seemingly permanent through architecture. My horror had acutely focused around the High Line, which admittedly is a wonderful garden and a nice place to walk around, but which represents lord-only-knows-what for the future of “parks.” Having grown up next to a park (Tompkins Square) that was the epicenter of a war over the idea of New York City, I do not conflate “parks” with “public space”, and recognize that they only partially overlap. The High Line presented a mysterious “public-private partnership” that I had long wanted to figure out, but never had the time or wherewithal to research.

I suggested that we write something about varieties of property in New York, with Zuccotti Park and the High Line as the exemplars. You were psyched, and so we embarked. You found that great article from Greg Smithsimon and some relevant articles from the current news around Zuccotti. I found the POPS survey from 2000 at the Zuccotti Library and started reading, and also put together a bibliography of books from the 60s and early 2000s that we could find at the library.

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